Besides testing your logical reasoning and problem-solving skills, the GMAT also measures how proficient you are in the English language. The Sentence Correction section or what we could state as the GMAT English grammar section measures just that. The questions here are designed to mainly assess two broad categories of your language proficiency — correct expression and effective expression — wherein you have to identify grammatically correct sentences and rectify them if you find errors.
Each Sentence Correction (from the Verbal section of the GMAT syllabus) question contains a sentence, all or part of which is underlined, followed by five options of phrasing the underlined segment. You are required to select the best option that provides the most effective sentence by paying attention to grammar, word choice, and sentence construction. The questions can be tricky, as these grammatical mistakes may not be very apparent. However, you can ace this section by brushing up on basic grammar.
Familiarising yourself with basic grammar and grammar rules will help you prepare for the GMAT Verbal section efficiently. Hence, we’ve created a list of GMAT grammar topics and rules that you need to know to answer the sentence correction questions.
Basic Grammar for GMAT Verbal Section
Here are some basic concepts of English grammar and grammar rules to help you attempt the GMAT Sentence Correction section with much ease:
- Subject-verb Agreement
The sentence correction section of GMAT English Grammar often includes questions of subject-verb agreement. These questions usually have long sentences, where the main subject and the verb are separated by too many words or clauses. You have to identify the subject of each sentence and make sure the sentence is correct by checking if the subject agrees with its verb.
According to the subject-verb agreement rule in English grammar, a singular subject must accompany a singular verb, and a plural subject must accompany a verb in the plural form. Hence, to pick the correct answer, you must first identify whether the subject in question is singular or plural. Then based on that, check whether the verb aligns with the subject in the sentence. Once you have identified the error, go on to select the best answer to replace the wrong segment from the options given.
Eg: Studying promotion expenses, the digital media has had as an emphasis the increased costs and decreased integrity of the marketing department, but they have generally ignored the cost of actually operating promotional centers, which includes staffing, amenities, conveyance, publishing, and technology.
A. Studying promotion expenses, the digital media has had as an emphasis
B. Studies of promotion expenses by the digital media has been an emphasis on
C. In studying promotion expenses, the digital media have emphasized on
D. Digital media studies of promotion expenses have had as an emphasis
E. In their study of promotion expenses, the digital media has been emphasizing on
Here, the word ‘Media’ is considered to be a plural noun, hence, it must be used with a plural verb only. Hence, the correct answer is C.
Pronouns are words that replace nouns or antecedents. According to the rules of English grammar, a sentence that lacks pronoun-antecedent agreement is considered incorrect. Besides, there are several conditions for pronoun-antecedent agreement, such as singular pronouns must match with singular antecedents and plural pronouns must match with plural antecedents.
The sentence correction questions include sentences that may not have a clear antecedent or have one that disagrees with the pronoun. By carefully analyzing the sentence, you have to make sure the pronoun accurately reflects the antecedent and represents a subject or an object.
Eg: The Amazon rainforest is populated with several different faunas, with each their own technique of adjusting to long phases of moisture abundance.
A. with several different faunas, with each their
B. with differently several faunas, each with its
C. by several different faunas, each with its
D. by several different faunas, having each its
E. by several different faunas, that each has their
In the underlined segment of the sentence, the word ‘each’ is considered singular. Hence the pronoun must also be singular. Here the answer is C.
Parallelism means when two or more phrases or clauses have the same grammatical structure. Hence, if parallelism is missing or is incorrect in a sentence where it is required, the sentence may sound confusing or wrong. Questions with parallelism errors are often included in the GMAT English Grammar questions. In order to answer these questions, you must first check if the phrases joined by conjunctions are written in the same form. Once you identify the errors in the sentence, check the answers and choose the best option to replace the part underlined.
Eg: A poll conducted by The Wall Street Journal suggests that automation is the most serious threat to native citizens of the US as well as to maintaining employment-to-population ratio balance, after being affected by economic factors.
A. threat to native citizens of the US as well as to maintaining employment-to-population ratio balance, after being affected by economic factors.
B. threat, after economic factors, to native citizens of the US and for maintaining a balanced employment-to-population ratio.
C. threat, after factors affecting its economy, to native citizens of the US and also to maintenance of a balanced employment-to-population ratio.
D. threat to native citizens of the US and for maintaining balanced employment-to-population ratio, after economic factors.
E. threat, after economic factors, to native citizens of the US and to the maintenance of a balanced employment-to-population ratio.
The parallel structure and pronoun usage is correct in option C. Hence the correct answer will be C.
- Verb Tense
Verb tense indicates the time of action in a sentence (past, present, future). GMAT sentence correction section includes questions to test your expertise in using the correct verb tenses. The sentences included in the question inform you about some action happening at present, that has happened in the past or will take place in future. You need to carefully analyze the sentence and choose the answer option with the correct verb tense to replace the underlined section of the sentence.
Eg: Despite recent increase in profit margins that have driven oil companies’ common stocks to new highs, several industry experts expect oil refineries, in order to conserve cash, to set bonuses more conservatively than they had been.
A. to set bonuses more conservatively than they had been
B. to set more conservative bonuses than they have been
C. to be more conservative than they have been in setting bonuses
D. that they will be more conservative than they were in setting bonuses
E. that they will be more conservative than they have been to set bonuses
Two elements are compared in the sentence: ‘Bonuses set now’ and ‘bonuses set before’. Considering the comparison and verb form used, the correct answer should be option C.
Modifiers are words or phrases that modify other words in a sentence. It can be adjectives, adverbs or more. To be specific, modifiers add emphasis, explanation, or detail to a specific word in a sentence. However, when used, it must clearly align with the meaning of the sentence.
The sentence correction section includes questions related to dangling modifiers. Here, the modifying phrase could be misplaced or is not explicitly stated, thus, making the sentence illogical. In order to answer the questions, you must check whether the modifier belongs to the word it modifies, and select the best answer choice to replace it.
Eg: A critically acclaimed series to depict an NYC policeman and the first movie ever to use a third person point of view, it was John McTiernan’s Die Hard that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and was later made video games and comic books.
A. it was John McTiernan’s Die Hard that won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and was later adapted to
B. Die Hard, by John McTiernan, won the Academy Award for Best Picture and was later adapted to
C. John McTiernan won the Academy Award for Die Hard for Best Picture, and it was later adapted to
D. John McTiernan’s Die Hard won the Academy Award for Best Picture and was later adapted to
E. Die Hard, directed by John McTiernan, won the Academy Award for Best Picture, and later was adapted to
The modifier ‘The critically acclaimed.’ must modify the title of the movie, ‘Die Hard’. Hence, the correct answer will be option D.
Besides the above-mentioned grammatical questions, you are also asked questions related to idiomatic expressions and their figurative meanings. Questions here will either use an idiom incorrectly or the expression will be grammatically incorrect. In order to identify and correct such errors, you need to have an understanding of commonly used idioms.
Eg: The Ambrose Medal was awarded to John J. Clague for his contribution to Earth Sciences — this study that has led to improvements in investigations on Earthquakes and Tsunamis.
A. to Earth Sciences — this study that has led
B. about Earth Sciences — this study which will lead
C. to Earth Sciences — a study that has led
D. of Earth Sciences — a study that has led
E. of Earth Sciences — a study that has been leading
The em-dash used in this sentence defines ‘Earth Sciences’. ‘Contribution to’ is the appropriate usage of the idiom. Hence, the answer is C.
Tips to Ace GMAT English Grammar:
You don’t have to be a grammar Nazi to answer the sentence correction questions. However, you need to understand the error type and have a good strategy to select the correct answer as most of the choices might seem the same if you fail to understand what the error is.
Following are some great tips that will help you ace the GMAT English grammar section.
- Know the meaning
Grammar questions asked in the GMAT Exam often consist of sentences with tricky clauses and phrases to confuse you. Hence, ensure that you read the entire sentence before jumping to conclusions. Most of you may focus more on finding grammatical errors in order to eliminate answer choices. However, even if you have selected the grammatically correct answer, it is always essential to ensure that the meaning conveyed by your answer is logically correct.
- Identify the type of error
The sentence correction section often tends to include more than one error in each question. However, the questions never explain what kind of concepts are being tested. Hence, figuring out the grammar concept that is being tested is crucial to understand and select the correct answer. Read the questions carefully and figure out the type of error.
For example, if the subject and verb don’t agree in a sentence, the question is obviously related to subject-verb agreement. Once you understand the error type, it will be easy for you to check and select the correct version of the underlined part from the options. Hence, consistent practice is extremely essential.
- Use the elimination technique
Eliminating grammatically incorrect answers is a great way to improve your accuracy in selecting the right answer and arriving at a conclusion. Once you understand the error type, look through the answer choices and strike off the grammatically incorrect options. Then, from the remaining choices, identify the substitute for the underlined section, which grammatically and logically aligns with the sentence.
- Take a clue from the non-underlined part of the sentence
While answering the sentence correction questions, most of you tend to focus a lot on the part that is underlined. However, sometimes, the non-underlined part of the sentence can also give you hints to the correct answer. You can use these hints to understand and rectify the underlined errors. For example, if the underlined section has subject-verb agreement errors, you can check the non-underlined section and see if the subject or verb is singular or plural. Based on that, you can select the correct answer. However, nothing can be achieved without practice.
Now that you are familiar with the major GMAT English grammar topics and some tips to help you ace the sentence correction section, you need to consistently practice to remember these rules. You can also download some GMAT English Grammar pdf sample papers online and practise them. This article will serve as a quick reference guide for you while you learn and practise GMAT Sentence correction concepts and questions.